Rains claim 2 lives, 33 rescued

Fayaz Bukhari
SRINAGAR, Sept 9: In a major day long rescue operation launched in South Kashmir’s Shopian district, 33 members of Bakerwal families trapped in an island were rescued today while torrential rains that lashed across Kashmir claimed two lives. Rising water level in river Jehleum and its tributaries are posing a flood threat to the Valley but likely improvement in weather by tomorrow afternoon has given authorities a sigh of relief.
The dramatic rescue operation for 33 members of Bakharwal families was started at Rishi Nagri on Shopain-Ahrabal road, 13 kilometers from Shopian at around 9 a.m. today. The families who had camped in an island in Grimto Nalla between Reshi Nagari and Moutagan were trapped along with their flock of sheep, horses and dogs due to over night heavy and torrential rains that caused flash floods. The Bakerwal families comprising 12 men, 8 women and 13 children along with 250 sheep, 45 horse and 12 dogs were trapped in the island.
All the family members along with their flock of sheep and other animals were rescued by 3:30 p.m. Deputy Commissioner Shopian, Mohammad Javed Khan, was overseeing the rescue operation.
Army’s 62-RR, police, Fire and Emergency Services and locals carried out a joint rescue operation. The rescuers used ladders and formed human chain to rescue the Bakerawal families and their flock.
Reports said that rescuers formed a bridge of ropes and ladders and were successful in rescuing around 4-5 people but it was washed off due to pressure of the water. Later in the afternoon when water level in one of the Nallah receded rescuers formed a human chain to rescue the trapped families and their flock.
Air Force choppers were also kept standby but due to freak weather they could not join the rescue operation. Colonel Vikas Batra of 62 RR and Major Shekhawant were leading the operation.  SSP Shopian, Mumtaz Ahmad also visited the spot early in the morning to assess the situation and then left for making security arrangements for Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s visit to Shopian.
In the meantime, a shepherd slipped to death in the higher reaches of Sonamarg due to freak weather today. Police identified the shepherd as Gulzar Ahmad Chopan, 40, son of Mohammad Ramzan of village Hariguniwan, Ganderbal.
Police said that due to rains and freak weather, the shepherd slipped from a mountain into a deep Nallah at Thajwas glacier near Hapathgund and died on spot. He had gone for grazing his flock of sheep in the mountains, police added.
Police said that Mahinder Singh son of Jugal Kishore resident of Kantigam, Ramban working in PMGSY site at Passran, Darakundan came under a landslide triggered by rains at village Passran, in North Kashmir district of Baramulla today and died on spot. The body has been recovered and handed over to his relatives for last rites, police added.
Meanwhile, torrential rains across the Valley have posed flood threat to Kashmir valley while low lying areas are already submerged under water.
The level of River Jehleum and its tributaries is rising as the rains continued to lash Kashmir valley since Saturday. At 5 p.m. today the water level of river Jehleum in South Kashmir’s Sangam was at 15.7 feet, 5.3 feet below danger level; at Ram Munshibagh in Central Kashmir Srinagar it was at 10.40 feet, 7.6 feet below danger level; and at Asham in North Kashmir’s the river was flowing at 6.41, 7.6 feet below the danger mark.
The head of the Disaster Management Cell in Kashmir, Aamir Ali told Excelsior that although authorities are ready to face the challenge but there is no major flood threat in Kashmir valley. He said that there is forecast of improvement in weather by tomorrow and if weather improved water level in Jehleum may not cross the danger mark.
Ali said that Srinagar Municipality has pressed de-watering pumps into service in low lying areas of Srinagar city where from there are reports of water logging.

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